Last fall BCI was notified that a large number of bats had
been killed on the University of Arizona campus in Tucson. Mostly
Mexican free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis), they
roosted in the expansion joints that run the length of the
university's large concrete football stadium. Although the bats
had roosted there for years, they only were considered a problem
when a new outdoor restaurant was built directly under their
University personnel sprayed carbon dioxide from a fire
extinguisher to drive the bats away, and a local licensed pest
control operator later applied a sticky bird repellent to the
crevices. The carbon dioxide both froze and suffocated the
animals, and the bird repellent permanently glued the wings of
the remaining bats to their bodies. Reports varied on how many
were actually killed. The incident sparked a loud public outcry
against the inhumane methods used and even inspired national
mention in Sports Illustrated.
Most bird repellent "glues" contain the pesticide
polybutene, which, when used against bats, violates federal law.
BCI reported misuse of a pesticide in the incident to the
Environmental Protection Agency, which prompted a thorough
investigation by the Arizona Structural Pest Control Commission.
As a result, the pest control operator received a heavy fine. The
case against the University of Arizona, on another related
charge, is still pending.
Although bats make good neighbors by eating half their weight
or more in insects every night, they can sometimes become a
nuisance in homes and buildings. Under these circumstances, they
can be removed from the specific areas where they are a problem
[see Profiles, page 14]. The important point to note is that
safe, permanent, non-lethal, and legal methods to achieve this
have been known for years. In sharp contrast to the University of
Arizona incident, the University of Florida at Gainesville is
solving a similar stadium-bat problem by safely excluding the
bats and providing them with an alternate roost in the form of a
huge bat house. The University of Arizona incident is regrettable
for several reasons. First, the bats were killed unnecessarily.
Second, although the university boasts at least four bat
biologists, none was contacted for advice. Finally, taxpayer
money was wasted in the two-month-long investigation of an
Arizona has some 28 species of bats--the second largest number
of bat species in the U.S. Despite this, educational materials
about Arizona's bats, which include at least six species of
special concern, have yet to be assembled by the state's non-game
program. Many other states routinely distribute such materials.
On the bright side, the events that transpired at the
University of Arizona have resulted in lengthy discussions
between BCI and the Arizona Game and Fish Division to produce
educational materials about the importance of bats. These will be
geared toward the general public and local pest control
operators. It is hoped that, with education, incidents such as
the one that occurred at the University of Arizona can be
prevented in the future.
--Jacqueline J. Belwood